By Matt McGrath
Britain is running out of land for food and faces a potential shortfall of two million hectares by 2030 according to new research.
The report, from the University of Cambridge, says the growing population plus the use of land for energy crops are contributing to the gap.
It criticises the government’s lack of a coherent vision on how to make the most of UK farm land.
The authors warn that tough choices may need to be made on future land use.
The total land area of the UK amounts to over 24 million hectares with more than 75% of that used for farming.
While self sufficient in products like barley, wheat, milk, lamb and mutton, the UK still imports large amounts of fruit and vegetables and other farm products including pork.
Overall the UK runs a food, feed and and drink trade deficit of £18.6bn.
With a population expected to exceed 70 million by 2030, the extra demand for living space and food will have a major impact on the way land is used, the report says.
On top of these pressures, the government is committed to using bioenergy crops such as miscanthus as renewable sources of energy, further limiting the stock of land for food.
“That is putting some very significant future pressures on how we use our land,” said Andrew Montague-Fuller, the report’s lead author.
“If you look at the land that is required under some of the bioenergy projections made by the Department for Energy and Climate Change, that could potentially take some significant chunks of land.”
Another factor is the EU, in the shape of the Common Agricultural Policywhich now requires farmers to put more land aside to protect nature.
“They are meeting one of the objectives but maybe hurting some of our other objectives like growing more food, and biomass type crops,” said Mr Montague-Fuller.